Governor signs deca ban bill into
State will require phase-out of the flame retardant in household
June 14, 2007
AUGUSTA – Governor Baldacci signed into law on Thursday
a bill that will phase out the use of a potentially dangerous flame
retardant from Maine households. The bill, sponsored by House Majority
Leader Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, assed in the House and Senate
with broad bipartisan support late in May.
The legislation will ban the use of deca-BDE in mattresses and
furniture on January 1, 2008 and phase out its use in televisions
and other plastic-cased electronics by January 1, 2010.
Researchers have found evidence that deca leaches off television
sets and furniture and onto household dust, and is then inhaled
or ingested. Traces of the chemical have been found in breast milk,
and scientists believe that the substance causes slower brain development
“The chemical industry has spent literally hundreds of thousands
of dollars in Maine and other states trying to kill this important
health and environmental initiative,” said Pingree. “It’s
good to see that big businesses from out of state can’t talk
Maine people out of supporting good legislation.”
A series of tests performed on mice pups by the Maine CDC and
by researchers in Sweden showed that exposure to deca resulted
in decreased motor skills, including reflexes and physical strength
after a single exposure.
Firefighter groups across the state have firmly endorsed the measure,
saying that safer and equally effective alternatives are available.
Representatives from the Professional Firefighters of Maine say
that deca poses a real cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary threat
to the health of firefighters during and long after they leave
the scene of the fire, because it absorbs into their protective
uniforms, which are then brought back to the fire station – and
sometimes their homes.
Pingree’s bill also requires the DEP to continue its reporting
process on the safety of existing flame retardants, and gives the
Department authority along with the State Fire Marshal and the
Maine Center for Disease Control in determining which products
should be subject to a ban in the future. That amendment was added
to the bill by the Natural Resources Committee in a work session
at the end of April, at which point the committee supported the
measure by a 10-3 vote.
The bill has the strong support of the Professional Firefighters
of Maine, the Maine Fire Chiefs, the state Fire Marshall and the
Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, the Natural Resource
Council of Maine, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, the
Maine chapters of the American Lung Association Academy of Pediatrics
and a host of more than 30 environmental and health advocates statewide.
Deca is the only remaining PBDE category flame retardant that
is still used in household materials in the United States. The
Maine Legislature banned two other PBDEs – octa and penta-BDE – in
2004, under legislation also sponsored by Pingree. The older category
of flame retardants have proven to cause harm to humans and the
environment, as scientific research has found traces of the deca
chemical in animals and human breast milk, and tied its presence
to slower development in children.
The 2004 bill also required a series of studies of deca over the
next three years to determine if it should also be eliminated if
safer alternatives were available. The most recent report in 2007
showed conclusive evidence that deca posed a threat to the health
of humans and animals and should be replaced. Research also showed
that deca breaks down over time into the more dangerous - and already-banned
- octa-BDE and penta-BDE.
Only representatives from the out-of-state chemical industry lobbied
against the bill during the legislative process. No electronic
manufacturers who use the product sent spokespeople to oppose the
bill, and many of them have already started to move away from the
“For me, this is a lot like banning lead paint when we knew
that latex paint was available,” said Rep. Ted Koffman, D-Bar
Harbor, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.
Travis Kennedy, Communications Director, 287-1433